WASHINGTON, (CNN) -- Long-term unemployment benefits are officially expired as of Saturday after Congress failed to extend the federal program.
1.3 million Americans received the benefits. On average, they've been getting 300 dollars a week.
Extended unemployment benefits, beyond the usual 26 weeks, were started during the Bush administration to help Americans hit by the recession.
Since 2008 they've been renewed 11 times.
Congress failed to pass an extension in the budget deal, teeing up a nasty fight for the new year.
Some Republicans say it's time to end the program all together. They say it's too expensive. A year's extension costs 25 billion dollars. Republicans also argue people have gotten too dependent on the benefits, and the economy is strong enough now without them.
Democrats say benefit checks get spent right away, spending that's necessary to boost the economic recovery.
Democratic Senator Jack Reed and Republican Senator Dean Heller are working on a plan to restore the benefits. However, House Republicans oppose the 25-billion dollar price tag without cutting spending somewhere else.
Majority Leader Harry Reid plans the first vote on the unemployment benefits bill when the Senate returns in January.
Alabama's most recent unemployment rate is 6.2 percent, as compared to the national rate of 7.0 percent. Huntsville's unemployment rate is 4.8 percent.